Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Protest Pot Is on the Boil

(NY Times, July 25, 2020) SEATTLE — Weeks of violent clashes between federal agents and protesters in Portland, Ore., galvanized thousands of people to march through the streets of American cities on Saturday, injecting new life into protests that had largely waned in recent weeks.

Galvanized, did it? Interesting word; “to stimulate to action.”
And what is the subject of this dynamic verb?

Aha, now we’re getting somewhere: to stimulate to action violent clashes between federal agents and protesters.

There are several things worth doing when you read an inflammatory statement or article. God knows, they’re everywhere today now that social media has been invited into the national discourse—rather like allowing a wild-eyed, racist, conspiracy-theorist uncle to sit down at the Thanksgiving table.

Anyway, those several things include
1)  The source. Who wrote this and what is their agenda? If an individual, a Google check usually suffices. If an organization you’re not familiar with, you may want to see who sits on their Board of Directors.
2)  What’s their source? Conspiracy theory? Far left or right? Armed militia with an agenda? Agitators of one kind or another, looking for news coverage?
3)  Are they your tribe? Do they satisfy your point of view or make you crazy?

That may sound like a lot of work for a casual read and #3 takes no time at all because it fits for you or doesn’t. #1 and #2 are simply quick mental notes to satisfy what one might call informed reading or listening.

Know who’s pulling your chain.

In the case at hand, I see the NY Times as credible because they’re a reasonably middle-ground, slightly left-leaning source of national news and been around a long time.

That may not fit your tribal culture, but it almost exactly reflects where I normally come from as a writer.

So now you know two things. How to take what I write and whether it’s likely to resonate for you. And now the fun begins, because the next part gets fuzzy.

If you’re not part of my tribe (mostly middle, slightly liberal), you’re likely to go elsewhere and click away.
If you are part of my like-minded folk, then I’m preaching to the choir and what’s the purpose in that?

That, it seems to me, is the major reason our opinions, politics, workplaces and neighborhoods have become so painfully divided.
We no longer listen to one another. A sentence or two in, our respective jaws clench and we no longer listen, we begin to point fingers and raise voices.

An example…
…Democrats were flummoxed when Trump won the presidency. “How could those idiots have voted for him?”
Those idiots were ecstatic. “We’re finally going to break a system that doesn’t work for us.”

The Trump victory in 2016 was a shock, but no surprise to me.

I had consistently been writing that, over the past forty years, ever since Ronald Reagan, both national parties had been co-conspirators in abandoning the American middle-class.

They destroyed the unions. They privatized every national treasure that wasn’t nailed down—and some that were. They turned austerity into a national anthem, cutting welfare, offshoring both jobs and taxes, eviscerating education and driving a gap between wealth and poverty such as the world has never seen.

Not only during Republican or Democratic administrations, but consistently throughout both. They did it and then lied to the American voters about whose fault it was.

You can only get away with that for so long—and it’s both a miracle and a disaster that it went on for forty years. But then there was Donald…

…Trump read the tea leaves as only a wheeler-dealer with limited moral boundaries can and saw where the making of a deal lay, flapping like a gasping fish on the deck of a political ship that had sold off its morals as well.

He lied to the victims and won. He’s lied since to them 20,000 times (and counting) and the media has become transfixed by the number of lies, rather than the fact that a President of the United States treats 2020 America like 1933 Weimar Germany.

And what was the political arc of those times in Germany? 

Authoritarian rhetoric, Black-shirts in the streets, mob rule, Kristallnacht and the takeover of a democratic nation by a dictator.

How close are we to that today, with a sitting president who will not say if he will accept the result of the upcoming election?

My point is not to denigrate Trump.

My point is to show how artfully we have been separated from our common complaint of having been shat-upon by both political parties. Whether you as a voter chooses one or the other is your constitutional right—at least so far.

America has come for the unions and come for the jobs and come for your health, welfare, environment and children’s futures. Thus far, they have not come for you, but police in Seattle firing flash grenades, showering protesters with pepper spray and abruptly rushing into crowds, knocking people to the ground and jailing them, shows how close that may be.

I will not vote for Donald Trump, but you knew that by my tribe.

If your tribe be Trump, I recognize that and hope I have not lost you as a reader. But we desperately need to hear each other.

You are not idiots to my tribe. We have immense common ground and should not, cannot, allow ourselves to be divided and conquered by the money in today’s politics.

The 1% do not give a shit who wins in November. They own both parties. It’s our job to recognize that we are one in our determination and cannot be divided.

Vote for who you will, but talk to me and I will talk to you.

That’s the first thing they took away in 1933 Germany.

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